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Minnesota 84, Illinois 67

The SportsXchange

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - One showdown in the books, another one ahead for surging Minnesota.

With Joe Coleman scoring 24 of his career-high 29 points in the second half, the eighth-ranked Golden Gophers pulled away in the final 10 minutes Wednesday night for a 84-67 Big Ten Conference road win over No. 12 Illinois.

Trevor Mbakwe added a 19-point, 11-rebound double-double for Minnesota (15-1, 3-0), which travels to No. 5 Indiana on Saturday for a matchup of two of the four Big Ten teams unbeaten in conference play.

Brandon Paul scored 19 points for the Fighting Illini (14-3, 1-2), which missed 20 of 22 shots in a span bridging the end of the first half and the beinning of the second. Illinois finished shooting 35.4 percent for the evening and was a miserable 3-of-23 on 3-pointers.

Coleman drained a 3-pointer with two seconds on the shot clock with 9:40 left, starting the Gophers' putaway run. He tallied 12 points in a stretch of 4:53, including another 3 with 4:47 remaining for a 68-53 lead.

It became a classic Big Ten grinder almost immediately. Both teams were physical defensively, granting few clean looks.

Illinois grabbed a 16-11 lead with 10:45 left in the first half on D.J. Richardson's 3-pointer, but Minnesota responded with a 17-5 spurt on which it consistently beat the Illini in transition for fast-break dunks. Mbakwe scored eight points in the stretch, including an emphatic slam.

Paul, who had to switch from No. 3 to 12 after blood was found on his jersey, drained a three with 52.7 seconds left to cut his team's deficit to 34-30 at intermission.

Paul went back to No. 3 after halftime, but it did little to stem the Gophers' outstanding defense. Full of long-armed athletes who do a good job of closing out on shooters, Minnesota consistently stayed in front of the ball.

Those defense stands, coupled with Coleman and Mbakwe's big games, were too much for Illinois to overcome.

NOTES: Illinois honored former player Mannie Jackson at halftime by raising his No. 30 jersey to the rafters. Jackson scored 922 points in three seasons, but his greater fame came after his playing career as he became a distinguished executive with General Motors and Honeywell before buying the Harlem Globetrotters in 1993. ... Minnesota's No. 8 ranking is its highest since 1981-82, when it reached No. 5. Clem Haskins' 1996-97 squad was ranked second, but that season was vacated due to NCAA violations. ... When the Illini outrebounded Ohio State 40-30 in Saturday's 74-55 rout, it marked the first time in four games that it had won the board battle.
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